Former Congressional Chief of Staff Sentenced for Honest Services Fraud Conspiracy
A former chief of staff to a member of the U.S. House of Representatives was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy Jr. to three years of probation, including 170 days of home detention, and ordered to perform 100 hours of community service.
On Dec. 7, 2007, Russell James Caso Jr., 36, of Canton, Ga., pleaded guilty before Judge Kennedy in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to a one-count criminal information charging him with conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud. According to court documents, Caso served as a chief of staff to the Representative from 2005 until 2007. Caso’s guilty plea stems from his relationship with a firm that, according to court documents, had a stated mission of helping American businesses operate in Russia and facilitating the flow of trade between the United States and Russia.
According to court documents, the firm sought to submit its proposals seeking federal funding for these efforts to various executive branch agencies. The firm’s general secretary met frequently with and sought official action from Caso, the Representative for whom he worked and the Representative’s staff, including their assistance in obtaining funding for the proposals.
Caso admitted that the firm’s general secretary paid his wife a total of $19,000. According to court documents, Caso’s wife received $1,500 to edit written drafts of the firm’s proposals. After being paid for editing the proposals, Caso’s wife received and deposited three more checks totaling $17,500 from the firm between May and August 2005. Caso admitted that he knew his wife did very little additional work beyond editing the proposals in return for this money.
According to court documents, Caso organized meetings in mid-2005 where he and others made presentations and argued to various executive branch agencies, including the Departments of State and Energy and the National Security Council, that the firm’s proposals should be federally funded.
As chief of staff, Caso was required to submit annual financial disclosure statements, listing the source of any income earned by his wife, among other things. On the disclosure statement for 2005, Caso admitted he intentionally failed to disclose that his wife received any payments from the firm even though he knew that he was required to do so. In pleading guilty, Caso admitted that one reason for this non-disclosure was that he knew that his wife’s financial relationship with the firm created a personal conflict of interest because the firm was seeking his help to obtain federal funding.
During the sentencing hearing, the Department of Justice asked the court to reduce Caso’s sentence based on his substantial cooperation in the government’s continuing investigation.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Howard Sklamberg from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia as well as Trial Attorneys Armando O. Bonilla of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Gregory C.J. Lisa of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime & Racketeering Section. The case was investigated by the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service.